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Title: Ceremonies of the Pomo Indians
Author: Barrett, Samuel Alfred
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  Compared to the original, some alterations were made:
    -The word "greal" was changed to "great" [page 427].
    -The word "somewhow" was changed to "somehow" [page 428].
    -Price in List of Publications is missing in Volume 6, Edition 2.
    A Question mark was added.
    -All footnotes were moved to the end of the chapter. Because of this
    repositioning, Footnote 10 refers to Page 414 with the phrase
    See below, which, in this version, should be: See above.
    -Em-dashes were added to empty spots of transliterated text for
    clarity [page 412]. These are not in the original.
    -Inconsistencies in spelling were retained. However, The em-dash in
    the Section Heading called Fire Eating [Page 418] was deleted to
    make it correspond to the Table of Contents (no em-dash there!)
    [Page 397].




  Vol. 12, No. 10, pp. 397-441, 8 text-figures       July 6, 1917








The following publications dealing with archaeological and ethnological
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                Indians, by Samuel Alfred Barrett. Pp. 1-332, maps
                1-2. February, 1908                                 3.25
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                Samuel Alfred Barrett. Pp. 333-368, map 3.             ?
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                by the Miwok Indians, by A.L. Kroeber. Pp. 369-380.
                Nos. 2 and 3 in one cover. February, 1908             .50
                  Index, pp. 381-400.




  Vol. 12, No. 10, pp. 397-441, 8 text-figures           July 6, 1917






  Introduction                                                    397

  Ceremonial organization                                         398

      Officials                                                   399

      General Features of the Pomo Ceremonies                     401

      Invitations to Ceremonies                                   402

  The Ghost or Devil Ceremony                                     403

      Stephen Powers on the Ghost Dance                           404

      The Ghost Ceremony Proper                                   406

      Fire Eating                                                 418

      The Purification Rite                                       421

      Summary of the Principal Features of the Ghost Ceremony     422

  The Guksu Ceremony                                              423

      The Scarifying Ceremony                                     425

      Stephen Powers on the Guksu Ceremony                        427

      Completion of the Guksu Ceremony                            429

      Treatment of Disease                                        430

  Dances                                                          431

      Dances in which Men and Women Participated                  433

      Dances in which only Men performed                          438

      Dances in which only Women performed                        439

      Additional Dances                                           440

  The Messiah Cult                                                440

  Conclusion                                                      441


It has been at least twenty years since the last of the Pomo
ceremonies was held in a truly aboriginal fashion. Elaborate ceremonies
of a more recently introduced "Messiah" cult were held as late as
perhaps fifteen years ago, but these "Messiah" ceremonies contain
only a few features common to the indigenous tribal observances.
Dances are even yet to be seen in connection with some celebrations,
principally on the Fourth of July, but there now remains so little
that is really primitive about these that they are virtually worthless
to the student. Information obtained through direct observation is at
present, therefore, impossible, and we must depend for our knowledge of
Pomo ceremonies and ceremonial organization upon the statements of the
older men, and particularly those concerned with such matters in former
days. From such sources rather full information concerning some of the
ceremonies and dances is obtainable, but, under the circumstances, it
is impossible to secure exhaustive data concerning all of them. In
many instances informants recall only a few of the details of a given
ceremony or dance. Sometimes only its name is remembered. Doubtless
even the recollection of some ceremonies and dances has been lost.

During a residence in the Pomo region from 1892 to 1904 the existing
vestiges of some of these Pomo ceremonies were observed whenever
possible, but no attempt at a systematic collection of data on the
subject was made until 1903 and 1904, when this work was undertaken
in conjunction with the collection of Pomo myths, as part of the
investigations of the Ethnological and Archaeological Survey of
California, maintained by the Department of Anthropology of the
University of California through the generosity of Mrs. Phoebe A.
Hearst. This information was obtained from informants of three Pomo
dialects--Northern, Central, and Eastern. Where a native term is used
in the following pages, therefore, the dialect is indicated by N, C, or
E, in parentheses directly after it. The phonetic system employed is
fully explained in "The Ethno-Geography of the Pomo Indians."[1]


The ceremonial organization of the Pomo was very loose. There was
no secret society of importance, as there was among the Maidu and
presumably among the neighboring Wintun, and no organized priesthood
vested with control over ceremonies. The ordinary chiefs, however (or
"captains," as they are more often called), were prominently concerned
with all ceremonies, and there were other officials in charge of
particular rites. We may begin therefore by mentioning the various
officials in the order of their importance.


As has been elsewhere pointed out,[2] the social organization of the
Pomo is based primarily upon blood relationship, the blood relatives
who resided in a definite village grouping themselves into a political
unit under the leadership of an hereditary "captain." Usually several
of these consanguineal units comprise a village, and their captains
form its governing body. From among these the people elect a head
captain. Not even the head captain has absolute authority, nor has
any captain important judicial power, or power to inflict punishment.
In short, the function of the captain is primarily that of adviser to
the group. The special duties of the head captain in olden times were
to welcome and entertain visitors from other villages, and to meet in
council with the other captains concerning matters of general public
welfare, and to arrange for and preside over ceremonies.

What may be termed an honorary captainship was accorded any man who,
through his wealth or his prowess as a hunter, made himself very
popular by providing large quantities of food and numerous feasts for
the people. A similar honorary office, that of female captain, da´
xalik (E), was based upon a woman's popularity, which depended in
turn on her good-heartedness and her fame as a cook. Neither of these
honorary offices, however, was hereditary. In spite of the ambiguous
nature of the office, incumbents were accorded great respect at
ceremonies and other public functions.

The other officials had duties almost, if not quite, exclusively
connected with ceremonies and had nothing directly to do with
governmental affairs. We may recognize the fire-tenders, the head
singers, the chorus singers, the drummers, and the masters of
ceremonies. Such offices were considered very honorable and were,
as a rule, hereditary. This was particularly true of the offices of
fire-tender, head singer, and drummer, in which the succession followed
precisely the same rules as did the chieftainship.

The fire-tenders, called me´dze (N) and la´imoc (E), were officials
of very great importance. Connected with each of the large,
semi-subterranean "dance-houses"[3] there were two fire-tenders,
who saw to all matters concerning the fire and the preparation of
the dance-house except actually procuring the firewood. All the men
participating in the ceremony were supposed to bring wood, which
they placed just outside the dance-house. One of the fire-tenders
then carried it up and dropped it through the smoke-hole, while the
other stacked it in ricks in the proper places within the house. As
remuneration for their labor, they received the beads which were thrown
at the dancers[4] by the people during the ceremony and which were
swept up when the dance-house was cleaned.

The head singer, called ke´ kai tca (C) and ke´ūya (E), was a man
of great importance in ceremonies, though he was very inconspicuous.
It was his duty to plan previously the proper sequence of the dances
and songs, and it was also his duty to start all songs and to carry the
air. The head singer had to possess a very good voice, and had to make
it his business to know the songs for the various ceremonies. Now and
then he was at a loss for the proper song for a particular occasion.
He was allowed to consult some other singer, or, upon occasion, he
might ask for suggestions from the audience. Any one who knew a song
which fitted the occasion might come to the head singer and sing it for
him in an undertone, until he caught it and was ready to lead in the
singing. As a rule he kept time with a split-stick rattle, or a rattle
made of cocoons.

The chorus or burden-singers, called skam (E), gave volume to the music
and marked time with their split-stick rattles, hai mitamitaka (N).
Their usual burden was "he, he, he, he, ..." sung in a heavy monotone.

The drummers, called tsīlo´ gaūk (E), tsīlo´ tca (C), and
tsīlo´ matūtsī (E), were always two in number, and as a rule
they took turns in playing the large wooden drum which was set in the
ground at the rear of the dance-house, and which was beaten by the
stamping of the feet. The office of drummer was considered one of the
most important, and second only to that of fire-tender.

The master of ceremonies, called xabē´ dima (E), xabē´gaūk
(E), and he´līma (C), started and stopped all songs and dances by
certain signals. The participants in the dance usually maintained
certain positions, but the master of ceremonies ran about from place
to place supervising the activities and giving directions as required.
His presence was absolutely necessary at all ceremonies, and without
him a dance could not proceed. He acted under the general direction
of the head captain, but that official himself never served as master
of ceremonies. Very rarely did the same individual serve as master
of ceremonies and head singer. While as a rule the drummers and the
singers wore no special dress for ceremonial occasions, the masters
of ceremonies were almost always painted and dressed according to
different requirements for each ceremony (see below). They were usually
among the dancers who impersonated supernatural beings.


A ceremony always centered about the dance-house,[5] and lasted four
nights, or some multiple of four, beginning usually soon after sunset.
In the case of the "ghost ceremony," which began at sunrise, the
preceding night was spent in performing other dances. Such ceremonies
were made up of a varying number of dances.

There was usually no prescribed sequence, but the ceremony took the
name of the dance which was its special feature, though this need not
necessarily open the ceremony. In a few instances it was recognized
that certain dances should be performed together.

A ceremony consisted of (1) an introductory procedure, accompanied by
more or less ritual, such as the initiation of the children through
the gū´ksū ceremony (see below, p. 425); (2) a series of dances;
(3) a series of speeches by officials and men of importance concerning
the religious life or other matters of public interest; (4) a final
purification rite; and (5) various feasts, particularly one held in the
morning after the final night of the ceremony.

There were certain special ceremonies, such as the gū´ksū
ceremony, in which a definite opening procedure was required, but after
this almost any desired dance might be held at any time, day or night,
throughout the duration of the ceremonial period. The procedure of the
final night of the ceremony was also usually fixed.

The principal ceremonies of the Pomo were:

The xahlū´īgax xaikīlgaiagība[6] (the "ghost" or "devil"

The kalīmatōtō xaikīlgaiagība (the thunder ceremony).

The gū´ksū xaikīlgaiagība.

The da´ma xaikīlgaiagība.


The captains of the village discussed with other important men the
question of holding a ceremony, just as they discussed other matters
relating to the general public good. Having agreed upon the date and
other details, the head captain usually walked through the village
delivering an oration, as was customary upon occasions of importance,
in which he announced to the people the decision of their captains.
This oration might, however, be delivered as he stood before the door
of his own house or before the door of the dance-house.

Invitations were then sent to the people of other villages to attend
the ceremony. This was done by means of a special invitation string.
Wormwood or willow sticks about two inches in length were tied, each
separately, into a short string, the number of sticks being equal,
according to some informants, to the number of days intervening before
the ceremony was to begin, usually not fewer than two or more than
eight. Other informants stated that this number was equal to these
intervening days plus the number of days during which the ceremony was
to be held. For instance, if a four-day ceremony was to begin four days
hence, these being the usual numbers in both instances, eight sticks
were tied into the invitation string. According to another informant,
if the number of sticks was from two to five, the guests were invited
for the first of two or more ceremonies. If six or more sticks were
present, they were to come for a later ceremony. This latter, however,
seems to be rather improbable. To one end of the string was tied, as
an ornament, a small section of forehead-band made of yellow-hammer
feathers. This string might be presented as such, but frequently it was
tied to the end of a wand about two feet long. Its general name among
the Central Pomo was haidel. Before sending, it was called ha'iebū;
after it had been sent out, it was termed ha'idakaū.

A messenger took this string or wand to the captain of the village
invited and, if it was necessary for him to make a journey of any
considerable length, he broke off a stick for each day of his journey.
According to most informants, he simply delivered the string to the
head captain of the invited village and immediately returned home
with the message of acceptance from that village. According to one
informant, however, he remained as the guest of the head captain, and
himself broke a stick each day from the invitation string and finally
conducted the visitors to the ceremony.

As a rule, visitors arrived at least one day before the ceremony
began, but they never entered the village itself until the morning of
the first ceremonial day, making camp meanwhile at some convenient
spot within a short distance. The visitors collected a present of a
considerable number of shell beads, which was carried by their head
captain as he led them into the village. Some, at least, of the younger
men among the visitors attired themselves in their dance costumes and
danced into the village, usually following a little apart from the rest
of their people.

As soon as the visitors appeared in sight, a watchman, stationed on
the roof of the dance-house, gave notice to the head captain, who was
inside. He at once came out and, taking a position directly in front
of the dance-house, delivered a short oration inviting the visitors to
enter and making them welcome. As the visitors entered each group was
assigned to its particular position in the dance-house, and all seated
themselves with their head captain, captains, fire-tenders, and other
officials in front. When the head captain of the host village finally
entered the dance-house, which was not until after all the visitors
had taken their seats, he was called by the visiting head captain to
their position. The visiting head captain then made a short speech of
presentation and gave the beads to the host head captain, who made, in
return, a second and more lengthy speech of welcome. He then took these
beads to his own house, and they were later divided among his people. A
present of equal value was returned to the visitors, either immediately
or at some time before the close of the ceremony.

This formality of welcome over, some dance might be held at once
or the guests and hosts might enjoy a general visit. If one of the
secret ceremonies was to be held, all the women and children and the
uninitiated men retired from the dance-house before it commenced.


[1] Present series, VI, pp. 51-54.

[2] "The Ethno-Geography of the Pomo and Neighboring Indians," present
series, VI, pp. 15-17.

[3] An article by the present writer called "Pomo Buildings," in the
_Holmes Memorial Volume_, fully describes these structures, which
were erected especially for ceremonial purposes and which formed the
religious centers of Pomo villages.

[4] The reason for the throwing of the beads is as follows: Pomo
custom prescribes a period of mourning lasting one year. If a dancer
so far forgets his sorrow as actively to participate in a ceremony
of this kind before the expiration of the prescribed mourning period
after the death of a friend or relative some atonement is required.
It is customary under such circumstances for some one in the audience
to throw some loose shell-beads at the dancer, these being evidently
intended as an offering to the spirits and having nothing directly to
do with the dancer himself.

[5] For a description of this large semi-subterranean structure see
"Pomo Buildings," by the present author in the _Holmes Anniversary

[6] These words are in the Eastern Pomo dialect.


This ceremony was perhaps the most important of the four-day ceremonies
of the Pomo. It was usually held in the spring and was witnessed only
by properly initiated men, never by women or children. The uninitiated
men, as well as the women and children, were much afraid of these
dancers and kept a very respectful distance when they entered the
village. This was due to the belief that to approach closely would
produce serious illness.

Such esoteric ceremonies are unusual among the Pomo, though they occur
among other California tribes. As examples might be mentioned the Hesi
ceremony among the Wintun and Maidu, especially among the Maidu, who
have a definite secret society.


The ghost dance of the Pomo has been attributed by Powers[7] to a
secret society. In speaking of the subject of chastity among the Pomo,
he describes a "devil-raising" ceremony conducted by what he terms
a "secret society" which had several branches in the various Pomo
villages. His description of this ceremony is given from information
obtained by him from an old resident closely connected with the Indians
of the region in early days, and, while his assumptions and deductions
are in many respects incorrect, it is plainly a description of the
ghost dance.

After speaking of the "secret society ... whose simple purpose is to
conjure up infernal terrors and render each other assistance in keeping
their women in subjection," Powers says:[8]

 Their meetings are held in an assembly-house erected especially for
 the purpose, constructed of peeled pine-poles. It is painted red,
 black, and white (wood color) on the inside in spiral stripes reaching
 from the apex to the ground. Outside it is thatched and covered with
 earth. When they are assembled in it there is a doorkeeper at the
 entrance who suffers no one to enter unless he is a regular member,
 pledged to secrecy. Even Mr. Potter, though a man held in high honor
 by them, was not allowed to enter, though they offered to initiate
 him, if he desired. They do not scruple to avow to Americans who
 are well acquainted with them, and in whose discretion they have
 confidence, that their object is simply to "raise the devil," as they
 express it, with whom they pretend to hold communication; and to carry
 on other demoniacal doings, accompanied by frightful whooping and
 yelling, in order to work on the imaginations of the erring squaws, no
 whit more guilty than themselves.

 Once in seven years these secret woman-tamers hold a grand devil-dance
 (cha-du-el-keh), which is looked forward to by the women of the
 tribe with fear and trembling as the scourging visit of the dreadful
 Yu-ku-ku-la (the devil). As this society has its ramifications among
 the many Pomo tribes, this great dance is held one septennium in one
 valley, another in another, and so on through the circuit of the
 branch societies.

 Every seven years, therefore, witnesses the construction of an
 immense assembly-house which is used for this special occasion only. I
 have seen the ruins of one which was reared in Potter Valley somewhere
 about the year 1860. The pit, or cellar, which made a part of it was
 circular, sixty-three feet in diameter and about six feet deep, and
 all the enormous mass of earth excavated from it was gouged up with
 small, fire-hardened sticks and carried away in baskets by both men
 and women, chiefly men. It was about eighteen feet high in the center,
 and the roof was supported on five posts, one a center pole and four
 others standing around it, equidistant from it and the perimeter of
 the pit. Timbers from six to nine inches in diameter were laid from
 the edge of the pit to the middle posts, and from these to the center
 pole. Over these were placed grass and brush, and the whole was
 heavily covered with earth. Allowing four square feet of space to each
 person, such a structure would contain upward of seven hundred people.
 In their palmy days hundreds and even thousands of Indians attended
 one of these grand dances.

 When the dance is held, twenty or thirty men array themselves in
 harlequin rig and barbaric paint and put vessels of pitch on their
 heads; then they secretly go out into the surrounding mountains.
 These are to personify the devils. A herald goes up to the top of the
 assembly-house and makes a speech to the multitude. At a signal agreed
 upon in the evening the masqueraders come in from the mountains,
 with the vessels of pitch flaming on their heads, and with all the
 frightful accessories of noise, motion, and costume which the savage
 mind can devise in representation of demons. The terrified women and
 children flee for life, the men huddle them into a circle, and, on
 the principle of fighting the devil with fire, they swing blazing
 firebrands in the air, yell, whoop, and make frantic dashes at the
 marauding and bloodthirsty devils, so creating a terrific spectacle,
 and striking great fear into the hearts of the assembled hundreds
 of women, who are screaming and fainting and clinging to their
 valorous protectors. Finally the devils succeed in getting into the
 assembly-house, and the bravest of the men enter and hold a parley
 with them. As a conclusion of the whole farce, the men summon courage,
 the devils are expelled from the assembly-house, and with a prodigious
 row and racket of sham fighting are chased away into the mountains.

 After all these terrible doings have exercised their due effect upon
 the wanton feminine mind, another stage of the proceedings is entered
 upon. A rattlesnake was captured some days beforehand, its fangs
 were plucked out, and it was handled, stroked, fed, and tamed, so
 that it could be displayed with safety. The venerable, white-haired
 peace-chief now takes his station before the multitude, within the
 great assembly-house, with the rattlesnake before him as the visible
 incarnation of the dreadful Yukukula. Slowly and sonorously he begins,
 speaking to them of morality and feminine obedience. Then warming with
 his subject, and brandishing the horrid reptile in his hand full in
 the faces and over the heads of his shuddering auditors, with solemn
 and awful voice he warns them to beware, and threatens them with
 the dire wrath of Yukukula if they do not live lives of chastity,
 industry, and obedience, until some of the terrified squaws shriek
 aloud and fall swooning upon the ground.

Referring again to the "devil dance," as practiced among the Gualala,
Powers says:[9]

 In the midst of the ordinary dances there comes rushing upon the
 scene an ugly apparition in the shape of a man, wearing a feather
 mantle on his back reaching from the armpits down to the mid-thighs,
 zebra-painted on his breast and legs with black stripes, bearskin
 shako on his head, and his arms stretched out at full length along a
 staff passing behind his neck. Accoutered in this harlequin rig, he
 dashes at the squaws, capering, dancing, whooping; and they and the
 children flee for life, keeping several hundred yards between him and
 themselves. If they are so unfortunate as to touch even his stick, all
 their children will perish out of hand.


The dancers were of two classes, the ordinary ghost-dancers, or
"devils," called xahluigak (E), and the "ash-devils," or fire-eaters,
called nō xahlūigak (E). The former danced almost exclusively
during the day, and the latter at night, though these regulations were
not quite absolute. The ash-devils were always present at the ghost
ceremony and during the ghost dance proper they served, in a way, as
sergeants-at-arms and as clowns.

According to some informants, a new dance-house was especially built
for each ghost ceremony. Other informants did not particularly mention
this fact and it seems probable that in more recent times, after the
ceremonial procedure of the Pomo had become somewhat lax, this rule was
not observed, and the same dance-house may have been used for more than
one ghost ceremony, and for other ceremonies as well.

In this ceremony the dancers impersonated the spirits of the dead, as
is indicated by the speech of the chief devil-dancer made just before
disrobing.[10] The dance is said to have had its origin in mythical
times when the birds and mammals had human attributes. The Pomo account
is as follows:

 Hawk, the captain of a village, was killed by Vulture. After being
 absent from the village for some time Hawk suddenly returned, came
 into the dance-house, and sat down in front of the center pole, at its
 foot. A ceremony was about to begin, and the people noticed nothing
 out of the ordinary about Hawk and were perfectly willing to allow him
 to participate in the dancing. Meadowlark, however, noticed an odor
 about Hawk which showed that he had just returned from the realm of
 the dead. With his characteristic garrulity, he commenced to chatter
 about the improprieties of mortals dancing with dead people. Hawk was
 a chief and one of an important family and felt especially offended
 at these reflections upon him and left at once, never again returning
 to the village. According to one version of the myth, Meadowlark had,
 in those days, a long tail like most other birds. His action upon
 this occasion, however, so enraged the other members of the village
 that some one struck at him with a fire poker which happened to be
 near at hand. Meadowlark was able to dodge the blow, but the poker
 clipped off a large part of his tail. He has, therefore, had only a
 stub of a tail since that day. The people then fell to discussing what
 could be done to atone in some way for this insult to Hawk. A number
 of men immediately went out into the woods and dressed themselves as
 the devil-dancers now do, returning to the village to personate the
 spirits of the departed. From this mythical source has descended the
 present-day ghost or devil ceremony.

The ceremony was directly under the supervision of the chief
"gū´ksū doctor," and it was he who safeguarded the ghost-dance
paraphernalia during the long interval between ceremonies. The
ghost-dancers and the ash-devils were actually assisted in dressing by
the gū´ksū doctors.

The dress of the ghost-dancer proper was quite elaborate. Each
ghost-dancer repaired to some secluded place in the woods or brush,
preferably back in the hills about the village, where he dressed.
This going into seclusion to dress is called tsūma´kabek in the
Eastern Pomo dialect. He first rubbed his body with chewed angelica
root, at the same time making a prayer for long life, good health,
and prosperity for himself, his fellow dancers, and the people of the
village. He also made a prayer to a certain supernatural being[11] to
lend him a striped skin. He next painted his body with white, red, and
black paints. A man might paint his body entirely one color. The upper
half of the body might be of one color, while the lower half was of
another. The same difference in color might obtain between the right
and the left sides, and bands and stripes might also be freely used.

Before finally finishing the painting of the face and arms, however,
the remainder of the attire was put on. This included, for the head,
(1) a head-net with which to confine the hair; (2) a down-filled
head-net; (3) a feather tuft on top of the head; (4) a yellow-hammer
quill forehead-band fastened at the top of the forehead, passing back
through the parted feather-tuft and hanging down the back; and (5) a
fillet of pepperwood leaves. The remainder of the costume consisted
of a short girdle of pepperwood branches worn about the waist and, if
desired, a similar adornment about the neck.

The ash-devils, or fire-eaters, dressed more simply. According to some
informants, they were entirely nude except for a coat of blue paint.
According to others, their attire was somewhat more elaborate. The face
was painted red, black, or white, two colors never being used together.
The legs were painted white, then scratched with the fingernails so as
to remove some of the paint and produce longitudinal stripes. The hair
was bound up with the usual head-net into which a single black feather
was inserted,[12] or a feather tuft was attached to it. As a screen
or mask before the face, the dancer also wore a fringe of green twigs
further to disguise his identity. Otherwise he was completely naked.

When everything was in readiness in the village, the head captain sent
out a messenger to notify the dancers. When the latter were ready to
enter the village, a small fire was built in the hills to give notice
of the fact. They made their first entry just about daybreak on the
first day. A crier, who was always one of the captains or a fire-tender
detailed to this duty, took his position on the roof of the dance-house
just below the smoke-hole, where he gave the ghost call "yē ..."
four times. At once answering calls were heard from the ghost-dancers
in their several locations, for they had scattered to a number of
different places, each man by himself, or in groups of not more than
two or three individuals. The ghost response was a loud "waū wa´i,"
repeated four times. If the ghost-dancers were sufficiently close
together, this was given by their leader only. The crier continued his
calling until one or more of the dancers appeared on the outskirts of
the village. They came running in,[13] each carrying in his hands two
bunches of grass or twigs a foot or so in length,[14] behind which he
at times pretended to hide. Each suddenly stopped as he came in sight
of the dance-house and stood for a moment with outstretched arms.
Thereupon the crier shouted, "ō, ō, ō, ō," after which he delivered an
invocation to the ghost-dancers, asking them to come running into the
village bringing health and happiness to the people. This invocation
was as follows:

      napō´            | pūtsa´l      | gīwa´lē
      village          | healthy      | run to

      ma´yawala        | kale pūtsa´l | gīwa´lē
      girls            | healthy      | run to

      xā´xalik         | pūtsa´l      | gīwa´lē
      chiefs           | healthy      | run to

      da´xalik         | pūtsa´l      | gīwa´lē
      chieftainesses   | healthy      | run to

      kawi´k           | pūtsa´l      | gīwa´lē
      children         | healthy      | run to

Then, according to one informant, all the people who were assembled in
the dance-house shouted, while the drummer beat rapidly for a minute or
two. The head singers took their cocoon rattles and intoned a song as
they marched outside to meet the dancers. After singing outside for a
short time, they re-entered the dance-house.

The dancers then came running in, making a loud noise produced by a
voiced expulsion of breath through the relaxed but closed lips, "bū
..." and ran to a point about one hundred yards directly in front of
the dance-house door (see fig. 1). While the dancers were running into
the village, the singers sang the following song:

      yōhīya´, yōhīya´, yōhīya´,
      yōhīya´, yōhīya´, yōhīya´,
      yōhīkōlī kōlē, yōhīkōlī kōlē.
      (Repeat indefinitely.)

[Illustration: Fig. 1 Fig. 2

Fig. 1--Paths of the ghost-dancers as they enter the village, and their
ceremonial course before the dance-house.

Fig. 2--Positions taken and course traveled by ghost-dancers in
approaching dance-house.]

Meantime the crier and the dancers continued their respective cries.
The head ghost-dancer always dressed at a place north (i.e., in the
rear) of the dance-house, so that in entering the village he ran past
the dance-house to take up his position. Here he bowed very low, and
quickly dropped his arms with the bunches of grass above mentioned,
at the same time crying "wē...." He then trotted perhaps twenty
feet in one direction, where he repeated this motion and cry, and
then to a point an equal distance in the opposite direction from his
central position, repeating the same motion and cry there. This he
did four times, finally stopping in the middle of the forty-foot line
thus blocked out, and directly in front of the dance-house door. The
next dancer to enter the village might come from any direction. He
ran toward the head dancer and crossed, if possible, in front of him,
though if necessary he passed behind him. In this case the head dancer
turned around so as to face the runner. The newcomer began to pass
back and forth along the line, making the motions and cries as above
described. He then took up his position at one side or the other of
the chief dancer. These dancers were at liberty to laugh, talk, and
play at will. Frequently they performed various comical antics, such as
pretending to be stung by wasps, and doctoring one another.

The crier continued his calls until finally the leader of the dancers
walked along a zigzag path to a position about one-quarter of the
distance between the line of dancers and the dance-house (see fig. 2).
Here he halted and cried "wuī´ ..." after which the crier at the
dance-house called all the initiated men of the village to assemble.

There was a fixed restriction against the presence of the uninitiated
in this assembly. One informant maintained that the ceremony, as held
in his locality (the coast of the Central Pomo area), required that
four posts be set up, each at a distance of several yards from the
dance-house, as is shown in figures 1 and 2, the imaginary lines from
post to post forming an inclosure for the dance-house and its immediate
vicinity, within which none but the initiated dared venture.

The singers and others officially concerned with the dance came from
within the dance-house and formed two lines, one on each side of the
outer door of the tunnel, as indicated by the small crosses in figure
2. As the crier gave his call, the initiates answered with a cry of
"ye ..." after which they formed these two lines between which the
ghost-dancers must pass to enter the dance-house.

At the outer ends of these lines were two masters of ceremonies
who directed the ceremony from this point on to its close. They
first chased each of the dancers[15] as he came to enter the house,
returning each time to the heads of the two lines, there to await the
arrival of the next dancer. These masters of ceremonies were called
xahlū´īgak käldaiyaū (E) or masa´n käldaiyaū (E), and were
entirely nude except for a head-net and a feather tuft on their heads.

[Illustration: Fig. 3--Course of each ghost-dancer entering

The chief ghost-dancer entered the house backwards and started towards
the drum, passing, however, on the west or wrong side of the fire.
Before he had gone very far, he stopped and groped around with one
foot, as if to find his way, and finally inquired which way he should
go. Ghost-dancers used the same words in speaking that ordinary people
did, except that they inverted their statements and reversed the
meanings of words. In this case the spectators replied, "You must go on
the west side,"[16] meaning, of course, that the dancer was expected
actually to go down the east side of the dance-house. He then reversed
his direction, as is shown in figure 3, and circled four times about
the fire, finally passing to a position in front of the center pole.
The spectators meanwhile constantly called out to each dancer to pass
down the "east" side of the house.

When the dancer entered through the tunnel, the spectators all cried,
"ye´-ye." He at first advanced very slowly backwards until he reached
the point at which he inquired his way. As soon as he received this
direction he sprang up and ran the prescribed four times around the
fire and finally reached the foot of the center pole, making meanwhile
the same "bū ..." noise which he had made upon entering the village.
He here awaited the arrival of the other dancers, who went through the
same succession of movements.

The chief ghost-dancer, upon arriving in front of the center pole,
said, "mamūle´" (E), to which the spectators replied, "hehē´...."
Then he made a short speech in a more or less archaic language. Its
purport was: "I do not come to do any one harm, but rather to take all
sickness away and to make everybody strong."

  habadūtkīya  gahnū  kūdī´  pūtsa´lwal  gakba
            -      -  good            -      -

  ga´kalik  gaba       da´kalik  gaba, ka´lnīne
  chiefs       - chieftainesses   rich   people

  gaba  bēkal  sīma  bexba  gahnū  cama  īhīwala
     -      -     -      -      -     -        -

He next marked off, according to one informant, two or three places
on the east side of the floor, saying that he and his followers would
dance there. This was contrary to the usual procedure in dances, for
the regular dancing area in front of the center pole was always used.
As a matter of fact, the ghost dance itself was actually performed in
the usual area also, but this indicating of another area, and this
announcement, are only other evidences that the spirits must always do
things differently from mortals. In fact, the whole dress and conduct
of these dancers, their reversal of terms of direction, their groping
their way, etc., typify the conduct of the spirits of the departed, who
find everything strange when they return to the realm of mortals.

Throughout the entire ceremony, and especially during the time that
the ghost-dancers were entering, the spectators were obliged to use
great care not to obstruct their passage in any way, or otherwise to
interfere with them, else they were likely to be very roughly handled
by the dancers.

As the last ghost-dancer entered the tunnel leading into the
dance-house, the men in the two lines outside cried "yūhē´" four
times, after which they entered and took up their positions.

The above described entry of the dancers was according to the regular
procedure. However, these dancers, especially the ash-devils, were
privileged to perform many comical antics, and it not infrequently
happened that one or more of them would run up on to the roof of the
dance-house and dive through the smoke-hole. In fact, this was one of
the usual modes of deception practiced in this ceremony. A special net,
cko´l tabiū käle hai (N), was stretched about two feet below the
smoke-hole to catch the dancer. A special post was set in the ground
beside this net for the dancer to slide down. He would then go through
the usual series of movements, running four times around the fire.
After this he usually took up a position at one of the posts near the
door, there to levy tribute upon the spectators. This tribute might be
in the form of firewood, tobacco, or other commodities.

The music for this ceremony was provided by a drummer, two chief
singers, and a number of burden-singers. The ghost-dancers sometimes
sang a kind of burden of their own while dancing. This was simply "hī,
hī, hī, hī," etc., in a very high key. The chief singers were provided
with cocoon rattles. These and the drum were the only instruments used.
The dancers carried no whistles, although these were ordinarily used by
performers in other dances. The burden-singers also used no split-stick
rattles, but clapped their hands instead in time to their singing.

After the performers had in this way entered the dance-house, the chief
ghost-dancer called to the singers to start. The drummer then jumped
upon the drum, crying "hūtsaiya´hīī" (E).[17] With the first
cry of the drummer, the chief singers sounded their rattles. After an
interval of perhaps a minute, the drummer repeated his jump and call.
The song started and the dance began.

The song as given by one of the informants is as follows:

      yōhīya´ yōhīya´, yōhīya´ yōhīya´,
      kūlī kūlē kūlē ....
      kūlī kūlē kūlē ....
      hūtsaiya´ hūtsaiya´
      hīī ....
      (Repeat indefinitely.)

The two masters of ceremonies took up their respective positions at
A and C (fig. 3) and danced back and forth along the lines AB and
CD. In starting the movement, they stood with hands outstretched
and bent their bodies sidewise toward the drum as they shouted
"hūtsaiya´hīī." They then ran rapidly sidewise to the opposite
ends of their respective courses, where they repeated the same bending,
this time in the opposite direction. When they had gone back and forth
over these courses and had returned to their original positions for
the fourth time, they again shouted as at first. This particular set
of the dance was repeated four times, thus completing this part. After
any such part had ended, it occasionally happened that one dancer
would continue his steps just as though the music were in full swing.
Ultimately one of his fellow-dancers would strike him lightly to call
his attention to the fact that the dance was over, and he also would

Four such parts completed the first division of the dance. After this
the masters of ceremonies advanced toward the ghost-dancers, motioning
them back toward the center pole with the palms of their hands turned
outward and held in front of them, while they said "hahyū´,
hahyū´" (repeated indefinitely).

The singers, masters of ceremonies, and the drummer then seated
themselves or stood a short distance away from the drum, and the
ghost-dancers proceeded with their ceremonial disrobing.

The chief ghost-dancer proceeded from the foot of the center pole by a
path, as is indicated in figure 4, leading around the center pole and
fire and back to the east side of the drum, which the ghost-dancers
term cūna´ bilat (E), literally "canoe worn out." Upon his arrival
at the drum the chief ghost-dancer made a speech in which he said
that he and his fellows "had come from the hollow stems of the grass,
crawling like snakes," to visit the people.

      katsa´ mū_t_ō´lai | waha badū_t_´kiū (E)
      grass  hollow     | travel like a snake

He told them that he had come for their good and with no evil motives,
that he had come to bring them good health and happiness, not sickness
and misfortune. With a cry of "mē ..." he then jumped across the
drum to its west side. The spectators cried "mī´bax bō´wōwa"
(E), literally "go on your west side," indicating the west side of the
drum, according to the ghost-dancers' inverted method of speech. In
compliance with this instruction, the chief ghost-dancer jumped across
the drum, after which he sometimes felt around with his foot as if in
search of something. Thus he jumped back and forth four times across
the drum. He had really been in search of the drum all the time and had
feigned his inability to find it. He finally, however, jumped upon it
and stamped rapidly for a minute or so to indicate his satisfaction.
Throughout this whole performance the singers and others near the drum
continually cried "hō ... hō ..." etc. While standing on the
drum, the chief ghost-dancer faced toward the wall, thus bringing his
back toward the fire. Frequently he made some comic observation to
those near by,[18] and from time to time turned his head toward the
right so as almost to face the fire, the while he made the peculiar
noise, "bū ..." characteristic of this dance. Meanwhile he turned
his head slowly, first to the right and then to the left, until he had
done this four times in each direction.

[Illustration: Fig. 4--Ghost-dancer's course in disrobing.]

He next took the brush or grass, which he had throughout the ceremony
been carrying in his hands, first in his left hand and passed it
downward over the right side of his body until he had passed it down
and up four times. He then took it in his right hand and passed it in
the same manner over his left side. He next took part of it again in
each hand and passed both hands back and forth sidewise over his legs
while standing in a bent posture, until he had done this also four
times. The brush or grass was then placed upon the ground.

He next took off the girdle of twigs about his waist and dropped it to
the ground, usually without ceremony, though if he chose he might pass
this through the same series of motions as the twigs carried in his
hand. He next took off his entire head-gear at once. This he held in
his left hand and passed from his right shoulder up over his head four
times, repeating the same motions with the right hand on the left side.
He then placed this with the other paraphernalia on the ground.

He next left the drum and went directly back to the foot of the center
pole, where he rejoined the rest of the ghost-dancers. The remaining
dancers went, one by one, or in small groups, and performed exactly
the same ceremony as that just described. When all had disrobed, each
took his costume and retired to the woods or brush, redressed himself,
endeavoring to change his painting to one as different as possible from
that which he wore before. Later the same performance was repeated:
the calling by the crier, entry of the dancers, series of dances, and
ceremonial disrobing.

On the first day this entire series of dances was repeated four times
in all--at about 5 a.m., 10 a.m., 2 p.m., and 5 p.m., respectively.
After the ceremonial disrobing at the end of the fourth series, the
ghost-dancers left their suits in the dance-house and repaired to the
river or lake to swim, after which they returned to the dance-house.
During the other three days of the ceremony they might appear any
desired number of times during the day.

The dancers were forbidden to eat or drink on any particular day as
long as the dance continued, but as soon as they had gone down to swim
this restriction was removed.

As a rule, fire-eating and fire-handling were only incidental
to the ghost dance proper. However, if occasion arose, the
ghost-dancers themselves might handle fire, though they could not
eat it. This privilege was especially reserved to the ash-devils,
nō' xahlūīgak (E). In case something was done to offend
the ghost-dancers, such as an inadequate provision of wood or some
inattention on the part of the officials, they might attempt to show
their displeasure by throwing fire about the dance-house. It then
became the duty of the two fire-tenders to hold sticks of wood across
the fire. This operated as a taboo to the ghost-dancers, who were
prevented from touching the fire. If there were any of the ash-devils
present, even though not regularly participating in this particular
ceremony, they at once brought their special bird-shaped staffs,
which served as their badges of authority,[19] and gave them absolute
control over the entire assemblage, including even the head captain.
This caused the fire-tenders to remove their restriction, and the
ghost-dancers were then privileged to do as they wished as long as they
were under the patronage of the ash-devils.

While serving, during the regular ghost dance, as messengers,
sergeants-at-arms, and collectors of fines, the ash-devils were called
katsa´tala (E), and were the special clowns who performed all manner
of antics in their endeavors to provoke an outward expression of mirth
from some unfortunate spectator. Should he so forget himself as to
laugh or even smile at the antics, one of these katsa´tala ran at him
with his wand and levied tribute in the form of a payment of beads or
some other commodity, or imposed a penalty requiring the offender to
bring wood or water for the dancers. Furthermore, if some one of the
dancers should see a spectator in possession of something desirable, he
sent one of these katsa´tala with his wand to this spectator to demand
the desired article. The spectator must then bring it to the foot of
the center pole and deposit it for the dancers.

In order to provoke the spectators to mirth, these katsa´tala did many
odd things and made themselves as grotesque as possible. For instance,
one of them would prop his eyelids open with small wooden pegs (an
action called ū´ībatak (E)), or he would hold his mouth open and
stretch it out of shape (an action called katsī´da batak (E)), or he
would fill his cheeks very full and puff them out with grass (called
kawe´ts kale (E)).

These ash-devils never actually danced in the ghost dance proper, but
accompanied the regular ghost-dancers when they appeared. The intervals
between dances were filled and greatly enlivened by their antics, and
it was during these intervals that they made good their name by rolling
in the ashes of the fire, and by sometimes throwing live coals about,
and "eating" them.

From time to time during the "rests," or ceremonial pauses, one of
these katsa´tala would seize a cocoon rattle, run four times about
the fire and center pole, and throw the rattle at the chief singer,
calling upon him for a song. This must be at once forthcoming, and the
ghost dance itself was then resumed. If some one in the audience wished
to have the singing and dancing resumed, he threw a cocoon rattle at
one of the fire-tenders, who passed it to one of the katsa´tala, who
then ran about the fire and presented it to the chief singer as just

Songs were sometimes sung independently and unaccompanied by dancing.
This was especially the case in what may be termed singing contests.
Upon receiving the rattle, a singer was obliged at once to sing some
song. He then passed the rattle to another singer, who did likewise.
Thus each of the renowned singers was given an opportunity to prove his
merit. Each man's song was accompanied by a parade of the performers,
which carried the party, including the singer, four times around the
dancing area.


Fire-eating was restricted, as above stated, to the ash-devils, and,
while sometimes practiced during intermissions in the regular ghost
dance, it was usually held as a separate ceremony in the evening and
was preceded by a short dance.

The dress of the ash-devils consisted of a coat of paint and a very
simple headdress.[20] In addition, however, they carried special
ceremonial staffs called tōa bīla´t (E), kasa´ūsaūa (E),
and kasa´Isala (E). To one end of this ceremonial staff was fixed the
head of a crane. Grass was used to stuff the neck part, bits of abalone
(_Haliotis_) shell made the eyes, and bluejay feathers were made into a
topknot. It was permissible to use wands of slightly different forms,
but all were crooked in some way, and the crane-headed staff was the
recognized variety.

When this special ceremony commenced, the ash-devils became supreme
and took precedence over everybody. A guard was posted at the foot of
the side post to the east of the door, and no one was permitted to
leave the dance-house after the ceremony had begun except upon payment
of a certain sum of what was termed upon this occasion "bead money"
(cata´ne (E)). As a matter of fact, two or three stems of rush, from
four to six feet in length, were bound together and were given to the
guard as payment. He took this "money" and hung it on the wall near
the drum, after having danced a few quick steps upon the drum with it
in his hands. These rushes were legal tender during this ceremony; and
if the dancers asked a favor of any one else in the dance-house they
paid him for the service in this same legal tender. Their authority was
especially shown by their use of the crane-head wands, which no one
else was permitted to touch. They could be handled only after a long
fast involving complete abstinence from water and from meat or grease
in any form.

As soon as the ash-devils entered the dance-house absolute silence
fell upon all. Except the ash-devils, no one, not excepting the head
captain, was permitted to speak during the ceremony. The rule was that
the ash-devils themselves must consult one another in low tones.

Immediately upon entering the dance-house the main group of ash-devils
took up a position at the foot of the center pole and, in case some one
of the spectators did not almost immediately start a song for their
dance, they might jump into the fire and begin to throw brands and live
coals about among the spectators. This drastic action quickly called
forth a protest, and some one volunteered to sing.

The actual dancing lasted for perhaps half an hour, after which the
ash-devils sat down and began to "eat fire," jump into it, and perform
other miraculous feats with it. They, to all appearances, actually
picked up live coals, which they called bū (E), and devoured them,
preferring the coals of manzanita wood, as these were the strongest
and hottest. This term bū is translated by the Pomo as "potatoes,"
a term applied to the many species of bulbs and corms formerly an
important part of their food supply. The word for coals is masi´k (E).

During the progress of the dancing a fire-tender had been preparing
the fire for the special benefit of the ash-devils, and had selected a
considerable quantity of live coals, which he had piled at one side of
the main fire. Suddenly one of the fire-dancers put his hand into these
coals and scattered them out over the dancing floor. Then he pretended
to be burned and danced about as if in pain. Finally, however, he
struck the center pole with his hand and evinced great satisfaction,
for to him the center pole was as cold water. During this fire-eating
ceremony many other feats were performed, such as catching with the
mouth a live coal which had been thrown into the air, then running
back to the drum and dancing upon it. The dancer usually turned toward
the audience, opened his mouth, and exhaled his breath in such a way
as to cause the coal to glow between his teeth or farther back in his
mouth. Such comical antics would in ordinary life provoke an outburst
of merriment, but the rules of the ceremony absolutely forbade a sound
of any kind, mirthful or otherwise, from the audience, and if the rule
were violated a fine was exacted.

During this ceremony, and apparently as an initiation of novices,
little boys were thrown by the ash-devils back and forth a number of
times through the blaze of a large fire.

Finally, after about half an hour of this eating and handling of
fire, the ash-devils formed at the drum and danced over a course such
as that shown in figure 5. This was repeated four times, and as each
dancer stepped upon the drum he danced a few short, quick steps, as
did the regular drummer in producing music for an ordinary dance. Upon
completing this cycle of four, the dancers reversed their direction and
traveled over the same course four times. They next passed over the
course represented in figure 6, stopping at the four points marked I,
where each dancer waved his wand, which he held with both hands, above
and in front of his head in such a manner as to describe with it a
semicircle, while the spectators cried "hee´...."

[Illustration: Fig. 5 Fig. 6

Fig. 5--Course in first part of final fire dance. Fig. 6--Course in
second part of final fire dance.]

The dancers then returned to the drum, removed their head-dresses and
nets, and danced back and forth four times along the line indicated
in figure 7. At the end of each journey along this line, the dancers
blew their breath forcibly through their lips and waved their hands
from their mouths. At the end of this cycle they sat down and became
ordinary persons[21] once more. The spectators were then permitted
to do as they wished. They could resume their normal ways, including
smoking, which had been prohibited because the fire and everything
pertaining to it belonged exclusively to the fire-dancers during this


During the first three days and nights of the ghost ceremony, either
the ghost dance itself or some other dance associated with it might
be held. On the fourth night it was necessary that the entire night
be spent in dancing, and near dawn there occurred a purification
rite accompanied by special songs. Every ceremonial object about the
dance-house, whether it had been used during the preceding days or
not, had to undergo this purification, and in case the owner of such
a ceremonial object was not present, some near relative performed the
ceremony with it.

[Illustration: Fig. 7--Course in third part of final fire dance.]

Just before sunrise each dancer, holding up his personal ceremonial
paraphernalia in his right hand, danced back and forth in time to the
songs. He danced four times looking toward each of the six cardinal
directions in the following order: east, north, west, south, up, down.
All the ceremonial objects were then hung up in the dance-house and
later stored away secretly by the chief Gū´ksū doctor.

The ceremony ended during the following forenoon with a grand feast,
which differed materially from other feasts held at times during the
ceremony, in that each separate class of individuals dined by itself in
the order of rank--captains, fire-tenders, singers, drummers, masters
of ceremonies, ash-devils, ghost-dancers, and spectators. The food
served to each class was, however, of the same kind and quality.

Certain restrictions were imposed upon the dancers after the ceremony
was over. The regular ghost-dancers were not allowed to eat meat for
eight days. Those who wore the chaplet of twigs upon the head were
obliged to abstain from meat for four days. The Gū´ksū doctor
who assisted a dancer in dressing might ask him for some article, such
as a powerful poison. This had to be given the Gū´ksū and, in
that case, the dancer was forced to abstain from meat for eight days.
A dancer who wore certain kinds of feather ornaments abstained from
meat for a month. The chief Gū´ksū doctor, who knew all about
the ghost dance and who was called yō´mta bate (E), was compelled
to abstain from meat for several months. It was his duty to care for
the ceremonial paraphernalia between dances. This had to be carefully
hidden away in some lonely spot where no one could find it except this
chief Gū´ksū doctor and his two or three assistants.

Whenever any one of these individuals ate meat or fish for the first
time after this period of restriction had expired he was enjoined to
say a short prayer over it.


The following are the most characteristic features of the ghost or
devil ceremony:

1. The ceremony is supposed to have had its origin in mythical times
and to have been instituted as an atonement for an offense against the

2. It lasted four days, ending with an all-night dance, and, on the
morning of the fifth day, a purification rite followed by a feast in
which each class of individuals dined by itself.

3. The participants were several ghost-or devil-dancers personating
the spirits of the departed and accompanied frequently, though not
always, by one or more ash-devils or ash-ghosts, who filled the double
office of clown and sergeant-at-arms, and who usually performed their
special fire dance and fire-eating ceremony.

4. The officials particularly concerned with the ceremony were two
head singers, an indefinite number of burden-singers, a drummer, two
fire-tenders, and two masters of ceremonies. The village captains
retained their full authority in this ceremony except when the
ash-devils were performing.

5. The audience consisted of initiated men only, and silence was the
rule. Any exhibition of mirth was absolutely prohibited under penalty.

6. The attire of the ghost-dancer consisted of several pieces of
headgear, supplemented in some cases by a chaplet of leaves, a girdle,
and sometimes a neck-ring of leaves. The body was otherwise nude except
for very elaborate painting in black, white, and red. The dancers
dressed secretly in the woods and came to the village carrying bunches
of grass or twigs in their hands, behind which they at times pretended
to hide.

7. The ash-devils wore only a simple head-dress and a coat of paint.

8. The special crane-head shaped wand of the ash-devil gave him
absolute authority.

9. The dancers entered the village at the call of a crier stationed on
top of the dance-house, performed an elaborate ceremony in front of the
dance-house, and finally entered it backwards, groping their way, using
an inverted style of speech, and in every other manner showing that the
spirits of the departed were unaccustomed to the ways of mortals.

10. The dancing was elaborate and was characterized by the occurrence
of movements in cycles of four, followed by an elaborate ceremonial
disrobing at the drum, and then by swimming.

11. During the fire dance the ash-devils initiated novices.

12. The dancers were subject to certain restrictions for varying
periods of time following the ceremony.


[7] Contr. N.A. Ethn., III, 158-160, 1877.

[8] _Loc. cit._

[9] _Op. cit._, pp. 193-194.

[10] See below, p. 414.

[11] The exact identity of this supernatural being could not be
determined from informants.

[12] According to one informant, two feathers instead of one were worn
by these dancers. These were placed so that they projected laterally
from the forehead.

[13] One informant stated that each dancer was ablaze on his back,
head, and arms, and that smoke issued from his mouth. This accords with
Power's statements, quoted above.

[14] According to one informant, some of these dancers carried stones,
long sticks, or even snakes with which to frighten the spectators.
Note also Power's reference to the use of the rattlesnake in the ghost
dance, quoted above.

[15] Two or three dancers sometimes came together.

[16] Mibax bōl malīdai (E).

[17] This expression was said by informants to be untranslatable,
simply an expression used to start the song. This jumping upon the drum
and calling by the drummer were called tehe´sba (E).

[18] Compare below, p. 419.

[19] See below, p. 418.

[20] See below, p. 420.

[21] According to the above information, which was obtained from an
Eastern Pomo informant, the fire-dancers evidently did not make an
attempt to hide their identity. However, a Central Pomo informant
was very specific in his statements that the dancers of his locality
were more particular in this respect, and instead of remaining in the
dance-house after the ceremony they ran out and returned to their
respective places of seclusion, there to dress in daily attire and
return to the village.


Gū´ksū or kū´ksū, as he is called in the different Pomo
dialects, was a supernatural being living at the end of the world
toward the south, one of six supernatural beings living at the ends of
the world in the six cardinal directions. The term is also applied to a
large mosquito-like insect, called locally "gallinipper."

Toward the east lived Ca´lnis, the only one of these deities who was
associated especially with Gū´ksū in the ceremonies of the Pomo.

Toward the north lived Sū´ūpadax (whirlwind).

Toward the west lived Xa´-matū´tsī (water-occupation). The
connection is here very readily seen when we know that the territory
of the Pomo reached to the Pacific Ocean, and that this great body of
water formed an important element in certain phases of their mythology.
It was only toward the west that the world was supposed by the Pomo to
be bounded by water.

Above lived Kalī´-matūtsī (sky-occupation).

Below lived Ka´i-matū´tsī (earth-occupation).

Some of these terms really referred to groups of several deities each.
The deities of all six quarters were particularly concerned with
medicine practices. Healing was, however, especially the province of
the Gū´ksūs, and the Pomo medicine-men, or "doctors," made their
prayers particularly to them, although all the remaining deities of the
cardinal points were invoked.

Nothing very definite seems to be known concerning the places of abode
or manners of living of most of these deities. Each was supposed to
dwell, at his own "end of the world," in a sweat-house or dance-house
of one kind or another. Each was also supposed to be distinctly
malevolent at times and to be a man-killer unless properly placated.
Under the proper circumstances they were regarded as benevolent, as was
indicated by the prayers of the medicine-men invoking the aid of these
deities in curing the sick.

Concerning the personal appearance of Gū´ksū and Ca´lnis, more
was known than of the others. Gū´ksū himself was said to be of
about normal human size and his most characteristic feature was a
very long, large, sharp, red nose. He was usually very good natured.
Ca´lnis, on the other hand, while resembling Gū´ksū in most
respects except that of the abnormal nose, was at all times a testy
individual, and in the Gū´ksū ceremony his impersonator pursued
people and tripped them up.

Gū´ksū was impersonated by a number of dancers, while only a
single one represented Ca´lnis. Those personating Gū´ksū were
dressed as follows: They painted their entire bodies black, according
to some informants; according to others, with horizontal red, white,
and black stripes. The feet were painted black and the under side of
the chin and the sides of the face were painted white. On their heads
they wore either a "big-head" headdress (a very bulky type of feather
bonnet) or a large feather tuft on top of the head, and a yellow-hammer
feather forehead-band. The large nose of Gū´ksū was represented
by one made of feathers and of such a size as completely to cover
the nose and mouth of the dancer. When painted red, this was said to
represent very well this characteristic of the deity as he existed in
the imagination of the Indians. The connection with the proboscis of
the gallinipper is especially apt. Each Gū´ksū-dancer carried a
cakō´ik (E), or staff, about two inches in diameter and from six
to eight feet in length, on the top of which was a feather tuft. The
Gū´ksū-dancer, being supposedly a supernatural being, never
spoke. The only sound made by him throughout this ceremony was produced
by his whistle.

The Ca´lnis-dancer was painted entirely black and carried a black staff
very much like that of the Gū´ksū, except that it was somewhat
shorter and bore no feathers. On his head he wore an ordinary feather
cape so drawn together that it formed an immense feather topknot which
normally fell in all directions over his head. This was held in place
by means of skewers passing through a headnet. Another point in which
these two dancers differed was that while the Gū´ksū-dancer was
provided with a double bone whistle the Ca´lnis-dancer had none.

The Gū´ksū ceremony itself, called gū´ksū xaikilga
(E), gaxa´gaxaū xaixilga (E), kūksū haitcilaū (C), and
djaka´djakaū (N), lasted for six days, during the first and the last
two of which there was celebrated the special ceremony called gaxa´gaxa
(E), in which the children of the village were scarified.


Two or three days before the time appointed for the scarifying ceremony
the men of the village went into the woods and cut a pole, perhaps
from thirty to forty feet in length, which they trimmed and peeled
preparatory to its erection. A hole a foot or two deep and large enough
to receive the pole was dug directly in front of, and a short distance
from, the dance-house.

On the morning of the first ceremonial day a considerable number of
men went out from the village dressed in a special ceremonial attire.
This consisted of a body-painting either of black stripes or spots (no
particular number being prescribed), and of a head decoration composed
of a headnet, a down headnet, two trembler plumes, a yellow-hammer,
feather forehead-band, and a small feather tuft.

They brought in the pole to the area directly in front of the
dance-house, and here the following ceremony was performed: To the
upper end of the pole a streamer was attached. The fastest runner
among the participants took the end of this streamer, and the other
men, arranged usually in the order of their ability as runners,
grasped the pole at different points down to its butt. Behind this
line certain women who participated formed a second line. The pole was
then carried, at the top speed of the runners, four times around in a
contra-clockwise direction, the pivotal point being the hole in which
the pole was to rest, and over which its base was held. As they ran the
runners swayed the pole up and down, and the women threw upon the men
handfuls of a small, parched, black seed called gēhe´ (E).

Upon the completion of the fourth round some one of the runners shouted
loudly "ha ... ū ..." and at this signal all lifted the pole
vertically into place in the hole. The call was repeated as the pole
was about half way up. When in place, the pole was fixed by tramping
earth and stones about it.

Within a few minutes after the erection of the pole the
Gū´ksū-dancers appeared and stopped about two or three hundred
yards away from the dance-house. Some of the men had been attempting to
climb the pole, both men and women meanwhile throwing at them balls,
gala´l (E), of uncooked meal made of a certain grass seed.

As the Gū´ksū-dancers appeared in the distance the climbing
ceased, and the children who were to be initiated were collected about
the base of the pole. Boys who were to be thus initiated were called
yō´mta (E), while girls were called masa´nta (E). They ranged in
age from perhaps five to ten years. The dancers proceeded to the foot
of the pole, took the children in hand, and performed the following
ceremony, the object of which was to secure for the children good
health and to make them grow rapidly. The children were first made to
lie down upon the ground and were covered with blankets. Then, under
the supervision of the dancers, each child had two cuts made with a
broken shell across the small of its back and about an inch apart.
The cutting was done by the gaxa´ xale (E), an old man selected for
the purpose by the people of the village on account of his long life,
good health, and particularly his good heartedness. This was one of
the most important phases of the initiation, and upon it depended the
effect upon the life of the child. The children were in each case
covered completely with the blanket and were not permitted, under any
consideration, to look up during this part of the ceremony. They might
make any outcry they pleased, but if they attempted to look up from
the ground they were threatened and even beaten with the staffs of the
dancers. The cutting was done quite deeply, so that blood was always
drawn. The children were also prohibited from looking up into a tree
from under its branches until after these scarifications had completely
healed, else the tree would bear no fruit.

The entire assemblage next entered the dance-house, the dancers going
directly to their positions in the rear without the preliminary
ceremony of entry which was required in most other ceremonies. The
children were made to lie on the floor and were again covered with
their blankets. The dancers then performed for their benefit, making
a great deal of fun both of the children and of the scarification
ceremony. They danced thus for a short time, then went on the west
side of the fire, where they turned their heads slowly to the left
four times, after which the people cried "ya...." The dancers then ran
out and into the brush, where they took off and left their dancing
paraphernalia. This ceremonial leaving of the dance-house was supposed
to remove all illness from the village, the dancers taking it with
them as they went out. The spirits which they represented supposedly
returned at that time to their supernatural home at the south end of
the world.

Another feature of the initiation in the Gū´ksū ceremony is
described by a Central Pomo informant, who says that young men were
initiated by being ceremonially shot with the bow and arrow.


Powers describes what he terms a "spear dance" among the Gallinomero
(which evidently refers to this same ceremony), as follows:[22]

 First they all unite, men and squaws together, in a pleasant dance,
 accompanied by a chant, while a chorister keeps time by beating on his
 hand with a split stick. In addition to their finest deerskin chemises
 and strings of beads, the squaws wear large puffs of yellowhammers'
 down over their eyes. The men have mantles of buzzards', hawks', or
 eagles' tail-feathers, reaching from the armpits down to the thighs,
 and circular headdresses of the same material, besides their usual
 breech-clouts of rawhide, and are painted in front with terrific
 splendor. They dance in two circles, the squaws in the outside one;
 the men leaping up and down as usual, and the squaws simply swaying
 their bodies and waving their handkerchiefs in a lackadaisical manner.
 Occasionally an Indian will shoot away through the interior of the
 circle and caper like a harlequin for a considerable space of time,
 but he always returns to his place in front of his partner.

 After this is over, the coward or clown is provided with a long, sharp
 stick, and he and his prompter take their places in the ring ready for
 performances. A woman as nearly nude as barbaric modesty will permit
 is placed in the center, squatting on the ground. Then some Indian
 intones a chant, which he sings alone, and the sport, such as it is,
 begins. At the bidding of the prompter, the coward makes a furious
 sally in one direction, and with his spear stabs the empty air. Then
 he dashes back in the opposite direction and slashes into the air
 again. Next he runs some other way and stabs again. Now perhaps he
 makes a feint to pierce the woman. Thus the prompter keeps him chasing
 backward and forward, spearing the thin air toward every point of the
 compass, or making passes at the woman, until nearly tired out, and
 the patience of the American spectators is exhausted, and they begin
 to think the whole affair will terminate in "mere dumb show." But
 finally, at a word from the prompter, the spearman makes a tremendous
 run at the woman and stabs her in the umbilicus. She falls over on
 the ground, quivering in every limb, and the blood jets forth in a
 purple stream. The Indians all rush around her quickly and hustle her
 away to another place, where they commence laying her out for the
 funeral pyre, but huddle around her so thickly all the while that
 the Americans cannot approach to see what is done. Thus they mystify
 matters and hold some powwow over her for a considerable space of
 time, when she somehow mysteriously revives, recovers her feet, goes
 away to her wigwam, encircled by a bevy of her companions, dons her
 robe, and appears in the circle as well as ever, despite that terrible

 Men who have witnessed this performance tell me the first time they
 saw it they would have taken their oaths that the woman was stabbed
 unto death, so perfect was the illusion. Although this travesty of
 gladiatorial combat is intended merely for amusement, yet all the
 Indians, these stoics of the woods, gaze upon it with profound and
 passionless gravity. If they laugh at all it is only after it is all
 over, and at the mystification of the Americans.

Referring to another phase of the same dance, as practiced in another
division of the Pomo, Powers says:

 Their fashion of the spear dance is different from the Gallinomero.
 The man who is to be slain stands behind a screen of hazel boughs
 with his face visible through an aperture; and the spearman, after
 the usual protracted dashing about and making of feints, strikes him
 in the face through the hole in the screen. He is then carried off,
 revives, etc.[23]

The novices who were thus shot were called tcō´ktcōk (C)
[plural tcō´ktcōkau], and the person who did the shooting,
at the direction of the head captain, was called yo´mta (C). The
informant did not state just where the shooting was performed and was
not explicit as to its exact nature, but it appears probable that it
occurred in the dance-house. These novices were forbidden to eat fresh
manzanita berries and the flesh of the fawn, the gray squirrel, and the
red-headed woodpecker. After the shooting ceremony the novices were
taken out into the area directly in front of the dance-house, and here
a ceremony of healing was performed over them by the one who shot them.
He told them that they would have long life and health, and that a
feast would be held for them in the course of a few days.


The Gū´ksū-dancers appeared only once each day in this
Gū´ksū ceremony, though various other dances might be held during
the day, and it was only upon the first morning that the ceremony about
the pole and the scarification above described were held. The ceremony
lasted, all told, six days. The ceremonies of the first day have just
been described. Those of the following three days consisted of one
appearance of the Gū´ksūs each day, accompanied by a simple dance.

On the morning of the fifth day, however, the children who underwent
the scarification on the first day were again assembled and driven by
the dancers as rapidly as possible about the village and out into the
valley. The children held one another's hands as they were driven,
making a continuous line. When they had become quite fatigued, they
were made to lie down and the dancers covered them with branches. They
remained here throughout the day and were again driven about in the
same manner just after sundown, being again covered with branches,
under which they stayed until morning. They were then brought in by
the dancers and made to perform a short dance in a brush inclosure,
called ma´le (E), which was built just outside the dance-house for
this special purpose. After this, an old man, probably the same who
performed the scarification, sang over the children. During this dance
each child carried a small willow twig, which he threw onto a pile at
the end of the dance, after which he was free to go his way, and the
entire ceremony was ended. The fire-tender bore these twigs away and
deposited them at some distance from the village.

A Gū´ksū-dancer appeared at other ceremonies, but only for
the purpose of removing sickness from the village. He was sometimes
called in, as were other dancers, but often he appeared unannounced.
He, however, always notified at least one individual, whose duty
it was to assist him and direct his movements. Apparently this
individual was not a particular official, but might be any friend
of the Gū´ksū-dancer. The ceremony was a very short one. The
Gū´ksū ran rapidly in and passed in a contra-clockwise direction
four times around the fire. He then hurried to a position directly
in front of the center pole and here ran swiftly back and forth four
times over a short, straight course. He then ran around back of the
center pole and stopped on its west side. Here he turned his head
slowly to the left; then ran a short distance toward the door, stopping
and repeating this motion, making in all four such stops. After this
he ran swiftly out through the tunnel and back to the woods, where
he undressed and returned as an ordinary civilian to the village. As
he started to run out of the tunnel, the people said, "ya ... s ...
pūtsa´l kam" (E), that is, "_ya_ ... _s_ ... healthy make us." The
prolonged "s" was simply a hissing expulsion of breath, and as it was
blown out in this fashion any disease which might possibly have found
lodgment in the body of the individual was supposed to depart with it
and to be taken by Gū´ksū to his home in the south.

Before dressing, the Gū´ksū-dancers always chewed up and rubbed
upon their bodies the very sweet-scented seed of a certain species
of conifer, kawa´cap (E), growing plentifully in the region of Clear
Lake. A Gū´ksū-dancer was forbidden to eat meat or drink anything
before the ceremony or before doctoring a patient, as described below.
The Gū´ksū-dancer might, however, eat vegetable foods and drink
water after the ceremonial swim, which always occurred directly after
his dance. He could not eat meat or greasy food of any kind for four
days after a ceremony.


In addition to their part in the scarifying ceremony just described,
the Gū´ksū-dancers formed a class of medicine-men, and were often
called in to minister to the sick. These "doctors," when curing the
sick, dressed themselves in the costume of the regular Gū´ksū
ceremony. As in the ceremony also, the Gū´ksū doctor had to be
ceremonially summoned, and he came in from the woods impersonating the
supernatural Gū´ksū. The latter was pictured, to all intents
and purposes, as coming from his home in the south to perform the
"medicine" rite and carry away with him the disease from the sick
person. A special call was used in this case as follows: "hyō ...
hyō´ ..." repeated four times.

The Gū´ksū doctor never spoke and never sang over his patients,
but constantly blew a double bone whistle in a characteristic way,
a very short blast followed by a very long one. Upon reaching the
patient, who might be either in or out of doors, he ran around him
several times. He then inserted the point of his staff under the neck
of the patient and made motions four times as if prying upwards. He
next inserted the staff under the shoulder and repeated this prying
motion four times. He did the same at the hips, and finally at the

He next tapped and pressed down with his staff; first upon the
forehead, then upon the chest, then upon the belly, and finally upon
the knees of the patient. After this he ran rapidly out of the village
and into the hills, where he stopped and turned his head toward the
left four times. He then disappeared and was supposed to have returned
to his supernatural abode in the south, carrying with him the ailment
of the patient.

While the above was the typical procedure of one of these doctors in
curing a patient, he had great latitude, and might, at his own option,
omit altogether certain of the above mentioned movements or use others
in their places. For instance, he might pry as above, or he might press
and pat the body of the patient. On the other hand, he might simply
pass his staff down over the body of the patient a number of times,
usually four or some multiple of four, or he might omit the use of the
staff entirely and "doctor" with his whistle only, in which case he
bent over or knelt beside the patient and blew his whistle over the
various parts of his body, particularly those recognized by the patient
as the seats of pain.


[22] U.S. Dept. of Interior, Contr. N.A. Ethn., III, 179-180, 1877.

[23] _Op. cit._, p. 194.


The dances either formed integral parts of the above ceremonies or, as
stated, might be incidental and entirely unrelated to them. The word
for dance is xe in the Eastern Pomo dialect, and ke in that of the
Central and Northern Pomo. The following is a list of the Pomo dances:

      gīlak ke
      hōhō ke or hō´hōwa ke
      cōkin ke
      dūtūka ke
      ya´ya ke
      yō ke
      matcō ke
      lēhū´ye ke
      kalī´matōtō ke or kalī´matautau ke
      īwī ke
      gūnū´la xe
      he´lehela ke
      da´ma ke
      dja´ne ke
      kara´iya ke
      sawe´t ke
      hī´wē ke
      ī´dam ke
      xahlū´īgak ke
      gū´ksū ke
      ma´ta ke
      lo´le ke
      mo´mīmomī ke
      to´to ke
      taūgū ke
      badjū´ca ke
      sīta´iya ke

In a large measure the various dances were very similar to one another
so far as the steps were concerned. The characteristic step of the
men was a rhythmic stamping of the feet, with the body held in a
half-crouching posture. Sometimes this dancing was done "in place,"
that is, without moving from one situation. As a rule, however, the
dancer moved over a definite course in each dance. The movement was
varied slightly in accordance with the songs. Some songs were very
lively and the steps correspondingly rapid, while others were much
slower. All were usually sung to the accompaniment of the large
foot-drum, and split-stick, or cocoon rattle. Sometimes the dancers
used single or double bone whistles.

The women usually danced in place, twisting the body about and swaying
slightly from side to side with little or no motion of the feet. In
some instances, however, they moved over a definite course as did the

The dance paraphernalia of the men consisted of the following articles:

  1. The feather skirt.
  2. The head-net, bōlmakī (E).
  3. The down-filled head-net, ī´bōlmakī (E).
  4. The skewer, called kanō (N, C, E), with which the feather
  headdresses, tufts, etc., were pinned to the head-net.
  5. The feather tuft, bi_t_erk (E), kaa´itcil (C).
  6. The big-head headdress.
  7. The yellow-hammer feather forehead-band, tsō´lōpa (N, C, E).
  8. The trembler plume, ka_t_a´s (N, C, E).
  9. Loose down, te (E), which was sometimes scattered about over the
  freshly painted skin.
  10. A fillet of pepperwood leaves, bēhe´p marīt (E).
  11. A small green twig or a bunch of shredded tule, used in certain
  dances. Any object of this kind carried in the hand while dancing was
  called kato´hle (E).

Certain of these objects were prescribed for certain dances. In
addition, various items of ordinary personal adornment were worn which
do not specifically belong to dance paraphernalia--ear plugs, pendants,
necklaces of beads, etc.

The dance paraphernalia of the women was the same as that of the men,
though, as a rule, the men dressed much more elaborately than the
women. The latter had, however, one special type of forehead-band which
they alone used. This was a fur band or roll provided with a number of
beaded, yellow-hammer quill bangles.

An important part of the attire for any dance was the painting, which
varied greatly and was usually carefully prescribed for each dance. The
body, or a large part of it, might be covered with one solid color, and
longitudinal or horizontal stripes of various widths and also dots of
various sizes might be used.

Black paint, masi´k (E) (literally, coals or charcoal), was most easily
obtainable and most freely used. It consisted of ordinary charcoal
from the fire. If a large surface was to be painted, the charcoal was
pulverized in the palms of the hands and rubbed on. If lines were
desired, this powder might be applied with the finger, or a piece
of charcoal might be used as a pencil. Also stripes were sometimes
produced by scraping off part of the paint with the fingernails,
leaving the skin exposed along these lines. In case a sticky surface
was required, as, for instance, when down was to be later applied, the
paint was mixed with saliva.

White paint, wala´lac (E), made from a whitish or very light blue
earth, was also considerably used. It was applied as was the black

Red paint, ōhma´_r_ (E), was made by pulverizing cinnabar, which was
a rather rare mineral in the Pomo region and was much prized and used
very sparingly.

For purposes of presentation it is simplest to divide the dances into
three classes: (1) those danced by men and women together; (2) those
danced by men; (3) those danced by women. Fairly full information
was obtained about some of these dances, while in other cases barely
the names were remembered. The following dances come under the first



_Gī´lak._--The Gī´lak dance differed from most other Pomo dances
in that it consisted of two performances: one used for opening and
closing proceedings; the other, or main dance, coming in between.

The men painted with a single color (black, white, or red) all of the
face below the eyebrows, after which they scattered eagle-down upon
it. This gave the face a white, fluffy appearance. They painted the
chest and shoulders black. The legs were painted either all black or
all white. Then longitudinal stripes were scratched through the paint
with the fingernails. The arms were painted with three bands, each four
fingers in width; one about the middle of the upper arm, one about the
elbow, and one about the middle of the forearm.

Upon the top of the head each wore a feather tuft. This was parted
from front to rear, and the yellowhammer-feather forehead-band, which
was attached to the hair so as to hang down to the eyebrows, passed
through the part in this and hung down the back to about the hips. A
feather skirt tied just under the arms, and entirely covering the back,
completed the costume, except for a few green twigs which were held in
both hands directly in front of the face while the dance was actually
in progress. No whistle was used by these dancers.

[Illustration: Fig. 8--Position of dancers in _gī´lak ke_.]

The women painted the upper part of the body in the same way as the
men and wore a feather tuft and the regular woman's forehead-band with
bangles. They wore no feather skirt, but otherwise attired themselves
as did the men.

The men were divided into two groups at A, A (fig. 8) on both sides of
the rear of the dance-house, the women dancers being likewise divided
into two groups at F, F on each side of the drum.

When all was ready for the dance, the head singer started an air
and sang alone for several minutes. Then, at a given signal, the
burden-singers joined in with the chorus, all accompanying their
singing with split-stick rattles. This was the signal for the beginning
of the first or preliminary division of the dance. The men went to a
position about midway between the center pole and the drum, where they
formed a line BC, the women forming a group in the position G, directly
behind the line BC. Here was held the preliminary division of the
dance, called tehe´sbax (E), in which the participants danced in place
for a few minutes.

The men next moved to the position DE, passing on each side of the
center pole, the women following them to the position HI. They thus
formed two lines, facing the center pole. Here the principal part of
the dance was held. The chief singer again started the air, being
joined at the proper time by the burden-singers. Simultaneously with
the latter, the master of ceremonies gave the signal for the dancers to
begin. During the dancing he repeated the proper dance formula[24] four
times, finally saying, "ī, ī´ ..." and the dance stopped. At the
beginning of the dance, upon the signal from the master of ceremonies,
the dancers, both men and women, whirled around and faced the fire, and
as the dance stopped at the above signal they whirled back again so as
to face the center pole. The dancers moved sidewise back and forth four
times in all, along the lines DE and HI. Standing in their original
positions, they then performed for the second time the movement first
described, thus ending the dance.

This entire dance might be repeated as many times as desired, no
definite number being prescribed; but when each set of three divisions,
as above stated, was finished, the dancers returned to A, A and F, F,
retracing as nearly as possible the courses which they had traversed in
coming from these two positions. After the last set of this dance, they
removed their dance costumes near the drum.

_hō´hō ke._--The hōh´ō or hō´hōwa dance, which may
be taken as a type of many of those dances which follow, lasted from
one-half to three-quarters of an hour and could be danced at any time
of year. The men were dressed as follows: The lower part of the face
(i.e., below a line running from just under the ear to a point just
under the nose) was painted black. A black band, about four fingers in
width, ran from each of the acromia to the sternum. Four similar bands
encircled each arm, two above and two below the elbow, while four such
bands were placed upon each leg. Upon the head each man wore a feather
tuft, a yellow-hammer feather forehead-band and a pair of trembler
plumes, and upon the back a feather skirt. Each dancer carried a bone
whistle also.

Each woman wore a feather tuft and the usual woman's forehead-band.
In each hand she carried a small bunch of shredded tule. These
bundles, called kato´hle (E), were made by tying together at one end
several stems, perhaps six or eight inches long, and then shredding
the loose ends with a basketry awl. This dance was a very lively one
and took its name, as did several others, from some of the words
of the song accompanying it. Part of the burden of this song is a
high-keyed "hō, hō, hō, hō ..." very rapidly spoken by the
burden-singers in unison.

The music was provided by a head singer, several burden-singers, and a
drummer. Each of the singers used a split-stick rattle.

_cō´kin ke._--The cō´kin dance was very similar, in many
respects, to the hō´hō ke. One informant said that the dress and
painting were exactly the same, except that the upper arm and thigh
bore one painted band each, instead of two as in the hō´hō ke.

_dūtū´ka ke._--The same might be said of the dūtū´ka ke
(C), or dūtū´ga xe (E). The dress of the men was identical with
that of the hō´hō-dancers. The men used no whistles. The women
wore the regular woman's forehead-band. From one to perhaps eight or
ten persons danced at once, and the dance had no stated duration. As
one informant expressed it, they simply danced until they were tired.

_ya´ya ke._--Little could be learned concerning the ya´ya dance, except
that it was danced by both men and women, and that the painting and
attire were the same as for the hō´hō. The feather skirt was
worn, but no whistle was used.

_yō´ ke._--The men decorated themselves for this dance as for the
hō´hō dance, except that there were three stripes around the arm
instead of four, and with the addition of some down scattered over
their heads and faces. Each woman had a narrow, black line running down
the chin and a similar line running out from each corner of the mouth
toward the ear. Otherwise her decorations consisted of a feather tuft
and a yellow-hammer feather forehead-band. A considerable number of men
and women sang, each keeping time with a split-stick rattle.

_matcō´ ke._--In the matcō´ dance the music was provided by one
man, who accompanied his song with a split-stick rattle. The dancers
painted themselves as in the yō´ dance. Each wore a feather skirt.

_lēhū´ye ke._--The lēhū´ye dance was sometimes called the
ka´tcaha. The term lēhū´ye is the correct one for this dance.
In fact, the term ka´tcaha has been applied to it only recently and
was derived from the fact that whenever certain of the Pomo men became
intoxicated they almost always sang the songs of this dance; hence the
name "whiskey dance," or ka´tcaha ke. If paint was employed it usually
consisted of a coat of black on the lower part of the face and three
bands about each arm and each leg. Other designs were used, however.
Upon the head the dancer wore a feather tuft, a yellow-hammer feather
forehead-band, and a very large trembler plume, worn erect at the back
of the head. Each man wore a feather skirt. The women painted the lower
part of the face and wore a feather tuft and a yellow-hammer feather

_kalī´matōtō ke._--The kalī´matōtō or
kalī´mataūtaū, the thunder dance, was danced each morning
and each evening during four successive days. It could be danced at
other times of the day in addition if desired, and other dances might
meanwhile be performed at any time of the day except morning and
evening. The men painted their naked bodies with vertical stripes.
Upon the face but one stripe appeared, running from ear to ear and
just below the nose. Upon the head each man wore a down head-net, a
feather tuft, and a pair of trembler plumes. No yellow-hammer feather
forehead-band, down, or feather skirt was used. The women dressed very
simply. They wore the same stripe on the face as did the men, and upon
the head a head-net of down and a feather tuft. Both men and women had
bone whistles, and each man had a light staff[25] four or five feet
long, with one or more cocoons attached as a rattle at its upper end.

_īwī´ ke._--In the īwī´ (C) or Coyote dance the men were
nude except for a coat of white paint over the entire body. Upon the
head there was a feather tuft, parted from front to rear to permit
the passage of a large yellow-hammer feather forehead-band from the
root of the nose over the head and down the back. The women were
similarly painted and attired, except that each wore an ordinary skirt
of shredded tule or other material. Each dancer carried a small bunch
of green twigs in the hand, so held as to obscure the face as much as
possible. This perhaps typified the crafty and slinking nature of the
coyote. The music was provided by one singer, who used a cocoon rattle.

_gūnū´la xe._--In the gūnū´la xe (E) or Coyote dance the
women dressed as in the hō´hō dance. The men painted themselves
as did the performers in the ghost dance, and wore the parted feather
tuft with the yellow-hammer feather forehead-band passing through
the part and down the back. They also wore feather skirts, and used

_he´lehela ke._--The painting for this dance was the same as for the
hō´hō. Each man wore upon his head a down head-net, a pair of
trembler plumes, and a yellowhammer-feather forehead-band. Each had a
bone whistle and a ke´cīge. Neither whistles nor feather skirts were
used. Each woman wore a feather tuft and a down head-net.

A fairly high pole similar to the one employed in the initiation rite
of the Gū´ksū ceremony was erected in the area directly in front
of the dance-house. The participants gathered about its base and each
man attempted to climb it, while the women danced in a circle about its
base. The wife of the climber, and sometimes other women, threw balls
of "pinole" (grass-seed meal) at him as he ascended.

_da´ma ke._--Concerning the da´ma dance, little could be learned save
that it was connected with some sort of esoteric organization and was
very rarely danced. There was but one woman who was said to know all
the details of this dance, but the opportunity did not present itself
to interview her. She is now deceased.

_dja´ne ke._--The dja´ne dance was always danced by two men and four
women, the men forming the middle of the line, two of the women being
at each end. They wore similar costumes, which were very simple. All
that could be learned concerning the details, however, was that the
mouth was painted black with a short line running out from each corner,
and that each dancer wore a feather skirt upon his back and used a

_kara´iya ke._--The kara´iya dance was danced by two men and two
women, and only once during any given ceremony. Men and women dressed
alike, except that the women wore the ordinary woman's skirt. No paint
was used. Upon the head was a feather tuft, a yellowhammer-feather
forehead-band, two trembler plumes and some down. Each dancer carried a
bone whistle.

_sawe´t ke._--No details were learned concerning this dance.


There are known among the Pomo at least five dances in which the
performers were always men. They are the hī´we, the ī´dam, and
the xō or fire dance and the ghost and the Gū´ksū dances
mentioned above.

_hī´we ke._--While this was danced by men only, women were
privileged to witness it. The dancers first painted the entire body
black and then added many white spots irregularly placed all over the
body. Each dancer carried a staff six or seven feet long and similarly
painted. The face of the dancer was painted black, and each wore a
large feather tuft on his head. This was, however, not so large as that
worn by the Gū´ksū-dancer. The music for this dance was quite
unusual in that the drum was not used. The head singer also acted as
master of ceremonies. The dancers formed a straight line and danced
in place without any forward or lateral motion, and all joined in the

_ī´dam ke._--Little could be learned of the ī´dam dance, except
that it was danced by men, with women participating in the singing.
One unique feature was that while it was in progress no one in the
village might keep water in his house. Also if any one ate meat during
a ceremony in which this dance was used he would become insane and
could be cured only through the ministrations of the chief dancer of
the ī´dam. While no further evidence was obtained in substantiation,
these facts point to the existence of an esoteric society connected
with this dance. One informant maintained that the last man who knew
the details of this dance died some years ago.

_xo ke._--The xo ke, or fire dance, was held at any desired time during
a ceremony. It usually followed the feast of welcome, as it may be
called, which was tendered the guests immediately after their arrival.
It required no special paraphernalia. In fact, it amounted to little
more than a regular sweat-bath, such as was taken in the sudatory,[26]
except that it was on a larger and more elaborate scale.

_xahlū´īgak ke._--See under Ghost Ceremony, above.

_gū´ksū ke._--See under Gū´ksū Ceremony, above.


Two dances are still remembered which come under this heading. They are
the ma´_t_a and the lo´le.

_ma´ta ke._--One man acted as master of ceremonies and another sang to
the accompaniment of a cocoon rattle. The dancers painted the cheeks
and lower part of the face black and then scratched vertical lines
in the paint. The only headdress worn was the yellowhammer-feather
forehead-band. In each hand was held a small green branch. The arms
hung down, but with a flexure at the elbow which brought these green
sprigs directly in front of the dancer. The dancers formed a line
and danced back and forth sidewise over a short, straight course.
This is one of the very few dances which may yet be seen, though in a
modernized form, at Fourth of July celebrations.

_lo´le ke._--As before, a man acted as master of ceremonies and another
man sang, accompanying himself with the cocoon rattle. The informant
was not certain just what kind of costume was worn, but knew that no
paint was employed.


The names of several other dances are remembered, but nothing in regard
to detail. These are mo´mīmomī, _toto_, ta´ūgū, badjū´ca, and sīta´iya.
The last of these was said by one informant to make up, along with the
gī´lak and hō´hō and dūtū´ka dances, a special ceremony, about which
nothing further is known.


[24] Any dance formula such as this was called _bakū´mhwakil_ (E).

[25] The general term xe´ dakōik (E), signifying anything held in
the hand while dancing, is applied to this staff.

[26] See the article on "Pomo Buildings," in the _Holmes Anniversary
Volume_, mentioned above.


During the latter years of the nineteenth century a "Messiah" cult has
been introduced among the Pomo by the Wintun of the Sacramento Valley.
In comparatively recent times the "prophets" of this cult acquired
great importance and, while the cult flourished, to a certain extent
superseded the leaders of the old ceremonies. This cult first appeared
among the Pomo at Upper Lake, then at Sulphur Bank, then at Long
Valley, and finally in the Ukiah Valley. The function of the prophet,
or dreamer, as he is commonly styled by the Indians, was to have dreams
or waking visions concerning dances and other matters in which the
people were interested. The prophets were supposed to receive through
these visions direct revelations from presiding spirits, and the people
formerly gave much credit to their teachings. They virtually formed a
priesthood which replaced the old "captains" in the direction of all
ceremonial matters.

One of the characteristic features of this cult was the painted
designs upon the interior of the dance-house. The last truly primitive
dance-house of this type in the Pomo region was photographed by the
author in 1901, 1902, and is described and illustrated elsewhere.[27]

Another important feature was the erection before the dance-house of
a pole bearing banners and streamers decorated with the particular
designs which the priest had seen in his vision.


Pomo ceremonies were in general quite simple and the ceremonial life
was characterized by an absence (1) of any fixed ceremonial season
or sequence of ceremonies, and (2) of any extensive priesthood or
secret order controlling ceremonial matters. Some of the ceremonial
performances possessed certain esoteric features, such as initiation
rites and special restrictions on the part of the uninitiated.

We note the presence of a few fairly elaborate ceremonies and a
considerable number of dances, some of which were employed as integral
parts of certain ceremonies, others as merely incidental to them. These
dances usually followed one another without any definite order or
relation, though in certain cases definite dances were prescribed as
parts of given ceremonies.

One ceremony has a definite mythological background, but this has
been lost elsewhere. No myths are told today to account for the other

In most of the dances an indefinite number of both men and women might
participate. In two dances the number of performers of each sex was
definitely prescribed. In five, only men might participate, and two
were strictly women's dances. In other words, there is patent in Pomo
ceremonies a rather thorough going democracy regarding the positions of
the sexes.

_Transmitted September 21, 1916._

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